Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Daydreams of a Drunk Woman” is fundamentally the story of a woman whose realization of self puts her at odds with the people and social structures that surround her. The issue of self-identity versus social alienation is a theme that dominates Clarice Lispector’s work. The very first image of the story—that of Maria’s trembling reflection in the mirror as the trolley cars go by—sets up the symbolic yet undeniable theme of a wavering sense of self. This is reinforced a few lines later when Maria catches the reflection of the intersected breasts of several women as she studies herself in the mirror.

Maria’s drunken daydreams explore the duality of self while depicting the inherent alienation of a frustrated human existence. The seeming opposites of sober and drunk, awake and asleep, practical and reckless, physical and psychological, happy and sad, love and hate, are all conflated as Maria carries on her social functions while delving separately into her individual thoughts and perceptions. In so doing, she becomes acutely aware of her solitude and isolation within a supposedly collective, cohesive humanity. She recognizes concurrently both the freedom that isolation brings as well as the meaninglessness it connotes for the individual. This contradictory state of mind proves to be unbearable and unmanageable.

The personal discovery of the truth about one’s own private human condition and how one deals with that truth is what...

(The entire section is 458 words.)